Both the New England Patriots and New York Giants had disappointing seasons in 2020. The Patriots finished 7-9 while the Giants finished 6-10. Neither team made the playoffs. However, both teams have been very active this offseason trying to beef up their rosters with the hope of bouncing back next season.
The Giants have brought in guys like Kenny Golladay and Kyle Rudolph to give quarterback Daniel Jones some top weapons to throw to. Meanwhile, the Patriots are rolling forward with Cam Newton at quarterback for now but have completely transformed the roster around him, signing a multitude of players on both sides of the ball including Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor, Trent Brown, Jalen Mills and Kyle Van Noy. This week, we will debate which team is in a better position for success this upcoming season.
I really like the offseason the Patriots are having, but in my mind, it’s still not enough. The Giants meanwhile, a team whose fatal flaw was not having enough offensive weapons, have added the premier pass-catcher on the market in Kenny Golladay. With the additions of Golladay, Kyle Rudolph, speedster John Ross and the return of Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones will finally have a supporting cast that can help him win games. Golladay and Ross are both deep threats, and they’re now joining a team with Jones, who Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked as the top quarterback on throws 20+ yards down the field. It should be a fun dynamic. Meanwhile, the defense, which took a huge step in Joe Judge’s first year as head coach, is returning everyone that made the unit successful a year ago. In fact, they also just signed free agent CB Adoree Jackson to slot in as the CB2 behind James Bradberry, who led the NFL in pass breakups in 2020. For the first time since… the boat trip, things are finally looking up for the Giants. The offensive improvements and defensive continuity should be enough to make the playoffs in a poor division like the NFC East.
The Giants are looking good, and like you said, in a weak division, they should certainly be in playoff contention next season. But I think the Patriots will also be back in the playoffs next season, even in a stronger division with the likes of Buffalo and Miami who took big steps forward last year. Bill Belichick clearly saw how good the teams around him were getting and decided he needed to go all out and actually spend money in free agency this season. So far, the result has been a massive upgrade at tight end with the arrivals of Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, significant improvements at wide receiver with Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor and solid additions in other places of need. The offensive line was going to be a concern with the departure of Joe Thuney, but the Pats went and got Trent Brown back from the Raiders. New England was pretty weak at linebacker last season, but they brought Kyle Van Noy back from Miami along with Pro Bowler Matt Judon from Baltimore and Dont’a Hightower should also be returning after opting out last season. They also made additions on the defensive line with Henry Anderson and Davon Godchaux and in the secondary with Jalen Mills. The Patriots legitimately have gotten better at every position — well, almost every position, I’ll get to that later — and that’s why I think they’re primed for a really successful season this year.
The position I think you’re alluding to is probably the biggest obstacle for the Pats’ path to success. As strong a career as Cam Newton has had, a touchdown-interception ratio of 8-10 is tough to swallow for a New England quarterback. Now, I know as well as anyone that Jones’ 11-10 ratio is not massively better, but some of the underlying numbers suggest that Jones may have been a little unlucky, and his improved supporting cast can only help that. Despite the underwhelming stats, PFF gave Jones a stellar 78.4 rating while Cam received a 70.9 grade. PFF certainly has its flaws but that’s a large enough difference that can’t be accounted for easily. Another advantage that the Giants have is the NFC East is significantly worse than the AFC East. The NFC East finished with a combined 19-40 record with the 7-10 Washington Football Team (who lost their starting quarterback in the offseason) representing the division in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the AFC East finished with a 32-30 record, with the 13-3 Bills making the playoffs. I think the Patriots could finish 10-6 this season, but even then, that mark wasn’t good enough for the 10-6 Dolphins (who have a ton of draft capital to make improvements with) to make the playoffs. I just think the road for Cam and the Pats to make the playoffs in the AFC is too difficult.
Yes, you got me. The one position that still has a big question mark for the Patriots is quarterback. The team re-signed Newton in what was a surprising move for some, considering his poor play last season. But for me, that move shows they’re not finished at that position yet. The team has worked with a sense of urgency that wasn’t seen and frankly wasn’t needed during the Brady-Belichick dynasty. That needs to continue during the draft. If that means trading up a few spots to be able to draft Mac Jones or Trey Lance, then that’s what the team needs to do. I fully believe the Newton deal was an insurance policy to make sure they have a starting-caliber quarterback to begin the season while developing whoever they draft. If all goes well, I’d be very surprised if Newton is still the starting quarterback by Week 8. The plan should be to have Newton start the season with a much-improved offense around him. Hopefully, they can play well enough to remain in contention during that time. Then by the time the rookie is ready to play, he’ll be able to step in and help the team make a playoff push. I know it’s a lot to ask from a first-year quarterback, but he’d be going into a pretty ideal situation in a franchise that knows how to win with a really good supporting cast around him. Next year will be a transition year for the Patriots at the quarterback position at least, but I think they have enough talent everywhere else to still make a playoff run with the new franchise quarterback.